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Senior NFL Columnist

Power Rankings: Explosive Bucs on the rise, back to being relevant

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Want to stump your friends?

Ask them to name the NFL team that is first in yards per play on offense this season? Limit them to three guesses, and that's it.

They won't get it. I promise.

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It's none of the usual suspects. Not the Green Bay Packers. Not the New England Patriots. Not the New Orleans Saints.

It's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs have won consecutive games to get to 4-4 and none of their losses have come by more than seven points. First-year coach Greg Schiano has the Bucs in the playoff hunt.

Tampa Bay is up to No. 15 in the CBSSports.com Power Rankings and has a real chance the next two weeks to go higher. They play at home against San Diego this Sunday, and then play the Panthers on the road next week.

If they get to 6-4, it would be time to start believing that the playoffs -- which seemed remote a month ago -- is a real possibility for the Bucs.

Say what you want about Schiano's crazy antics -- and there are plenty of them -- he has done a top-notch job so far.

It starts with the offense. The Bucs are ranked ninth in total offense and fifth in scoring. Rookie running back Doug Martin is second in the NFL in rushing, coming off a 251-yard, four-touchdown game against the Raiders.

Martin's ability to run has helped quarterback Josh Freeman rebound from a slow start. Freeman has four games with a passer rating over 100. Freeman has 16 touchdown passes and five interceptions. His 8.09 yards per attempt average is second in the league.

They've needed every bit of that offense. The defense has struggled. They are 29th in the league, and last in pass defense. That could make for a lot of high-scoring games coming up in the second half.

The Bucs are fun to watch. More than that, they are relevant again.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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